To the Editor:
Children all over the Commonwealth of Virginia scored a decided victory when the House of Delegates passed H.B. 1063, bipartisan legislation, by a vote of 76 to 23, to repeal the Labor Day Law, commonly referred to as the Kings Dominion (as in the amusement park) Law. Quite obviously, the collective largesse of Virginians representing child interests aren’t asleep at the wheel on education as a passport to the future. And although we don’t all always agree on how to reform education to make things better, I see a glimpse of light at the end of some tunnel when the majority of grown folks come together and decide that yes, school should be able to start before Labor Day and it should be up to local school districts, not the state, to choose.
For near 30 years, public schools in Virginia have been trying to abolish the "Kings Dominion Law" that prohibits schools from starting before Labor Day. This past year, 77 of the 132 school divisions were allowed through a very labor-intensive paperwork process, to start class before Labor Day. Many more districts, including Alexandria and Fairfax, want the academic freedom to do that and, given all our schools do, it shouldn’t be an Act of Congress or fight with Richmond to decide when to start educating our children.
Today, only Virginia and Michigan have the likes of a Kings Dominion Laws on the books. This outdated and repressive law is, in the words of my friend and Virginia School Boards Association President Joan Wodiska, a "relic of the old economy [and] … the definition of a burdensome, costly, outdated, and unnecessary state mandate. In fact, today, the Labor Day Law directly conflicts with Virginia's economic and educational goals." I couldn’t agree more and even our own Senator Dick Saslaw has come around to saying the Kings Dominion Law needs to be repealed. Maybe he can help us get a handle on Senator George L. Barker, who represents some districts on the West End of Alexandria now, including but not limited to the Cameron Station and Tucker precincts. Right now, he appears asleep at the wheel and despite hearing from the ACPS School Board, the Alexandria City Council, the Virginia School Boards Association and others, he’s intent on voting against what’s best for our children.
Right now, the Virginia Hospitality and Tourism industry is mounting an all-out assault on H.B. 1063, focusing on the members of the Senate Committee on Education and Health and unfortunately, they’ve got a hold on our Senator Barker who is a member of that committee. I urge you to please e-mail him at SenatorBarker@gmail.com or through his website at http://senatorbarker.com/contact and call him at 703- 303-1426 to tell him that regardless of how he feels, we as a community, as the community that he represents, starting with the leadership on the Alexandria City Council and the ACPS School Board and Superintendent, join ranks with the Governor of Virginia, the Governor’s Task Force on Local Mandates Review (of which I am pleased to be a special liaison), the Virginia Municipal League, the Virginia School Boards Association, the Alexandria City Public School Board, the Virginia House of Delegates and every other responsible adult concerned about education to repeal this antiquated law.
Tell Senator Barker that if a Ferris wheel can’t fit on a playground on the schoolyard, if it be the desire of the local school board to get our children in school come August or earlier, then that ride must wait.
Alexandria City Councilwoman